This week’s Parasha continues its detailed description of the furnishings of the tabernacle, the role of the Kohanim and their special clothing. Whether or not any of these furnishings or accoutrements remain in use today, they remain important symbols, messages and clues to the behaviors that God expects from us.
The smallest details of the Priestly Garments—the bigdei kahuna impart wisdom to us. For instance, we read that the priestly robe was required to have small gold bells and small pomegranates woven in alternating fashion all around the hem so that the sound of the bells was heard as he came in and out of the sanctuary. Exodus 28:32-35.
I found no less than 7 principles the Rabbis derived from this fashion imperative, perhaps you can find those and more also. Here are just a few.
On the simplest level, the rabbis derive the principle that a person should knock on a door before entering so as not to surprise occupants. The bells alerted others in the sanctuary as to the arrival of the priest. The Torah is concerned with protecting the privacy of others and we are cautioned to knock before entering anywhere, even in our own homes or our children’s rooms.
Also, the fact that the soft sound of the bells could be heard tells us that the sanctuary was considered to be a place that allowed for quiet contemplation and communication with the divine.
Pomegranates have been an ancient symbol of spiritual power and potential. The seeds of the pomegranate are many, like the mitzvoth and sweet like our reward for adherence. Hearing the sound of the bells and seeing the beauty of the woven pomegranates, our attention is thereby called to the availability of the healing power of a close connection with God and Torah.
Discussing this with Rabbi Elimelech Silberberg of Bais Chabad of West Bloomfield, he shared another insight with me. He taught in the name of the Chasam Sofer that the bells on the priestly robe brought attention to the special holiness of the priest’s role. The Chasam Sofer taught that just as the priest wore his garments with great pride, it is incumbent upon each Jew to live a life where their Jewishness is obvious and unmistakable in a very good way.
The sounds of the bells were a constant reminder to the priest of his role and the importance of his behaviors. What symbols do we have or use in our own lives for that purpose? Going to synagogue? Wearing a kippah? Putting on tefillin? A mezuzah on our door posts? Different dishes, flatware and utensils for dairy, meat and Passover? Saying a blessing? Shabbat Kiddush and blessing our children? Brit Milah for our sons and grandsons as the ultimate sign of being part of our people?
This Shabbat we are privileged to learn with our Chazzan Daniel Gross at 9:45 a.m. in the Shiffman Chapel. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.